Let’s talk about: Olomea

I’m going to try something a bit different. I got the inspiration for doing this from the 1 comment in the aka’aka’awa post. Internet searches can and are wonderful ways to find out about native Hawaiian plants and animals. But images can only go so far. If I can add a little bit of natural history or personal experience with certain taxa maybe I can help folks gain a greater appreciation for the biota we share theses islands with. So having said that, let’s talk about Olomea (Perrottetia sandwicensis)!

Here is a quick screen grab I took of the distribution of the plants in the genus Perrottetia as currently circumscribed. What I find interesting is its seemingly disjointed range. The plants have spread through the American neotropics as well as insular Southeast Asia and some surrounding regions. Aside from some of the islands of Melanesia, and even though it’s found on both sides of the basin, Perrottetia is not found on Pacific Islands. Except for Olomea in Hawai’i.

This, if anything, highlights how fascinating I find the dynamics of dispersion is in the central Pacific. Here are some of the most isolated landmasses on the planet, yet Olomea got here and none of the other islands seemingly much closer to source populations. Perhaps the environment favorable for Olomea persists longer in Hawai’i: Perrottetia may have repeatedly colonized Pacific Islands and died out with changing habitats. Or perhaps a favorite here are Studia Mirabilium: ye ole stochastic event! Whatever the case, it’s not just the pretty, or the rare denizens of our forests that merit attention. It can also be the quirky long distance traveler that apparently is all about Frank Delima jokes and Zippy’s late night runs and nothing else!

On top of all of that, Olomea is a favored tree for our native tree snails. Just another reason to appreciate our native Perrottetia.

Olomea is a tree that I occasionally come across on hikes into mesic-wet forests on O’ahu. I tend to look for small trees with smooth, simple leaves and red veins. Happy hunting!

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